Nicholas D'Amico, MA, LMFT

Nicholas D'Amico, MA, LMFT

Nicholas is a Marriage and Family Therapist and Chief Operations Officer at Covenant Family Solutions. He has worked with families and youth for several years and has extensive experience supporting struggling families and individuals in crisis. Nick is passionate about helping couples enrich and strengthen their relationships, guiding families towards harmony, and supporting youth as they overcome the impacts of trauma and dysfunction.

For many men struggling with Paternal Postnatal Depression (PPND), the feelings of sadness quickly get entwined with other complicated emotions. In many situations this condition goes untreated. Men are often taught to hide sadness, pain, and other emotions. Expressing the feelings associated with PPND feels like weakness.

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Please note, the information in this post is not a replacement for personal medical advice.

People know and understand that moms can struggle with sadness, irritability, guilt, and other depressive symptoms after childbirth (postpartum depression). In fact, studies tell us that 1 in 7 women struggle with PPD. That said, most people are far less familiar with the concept of men struggling with postpartum depression. However, 1 in 10 men deal with this — known as paternal postnatal depression (PPND).

What is it?

Among the symptoms of PPND are irritability, loss of enjoyment, hopelessness, feelings of guilt, hostility or indifference, irrational thoughts, and worry. Unfortunately, much is less known about PPND.

Despite the lack of knowledge, the impacts are real and can be highly destructive. PPND can lead to panic attacks, thoughts of suicide, social isolation, and can damage careers and relationships. Specifically, marriages and relationships with the new baby. 

Feelings of sadness can get quickly entwined with other complicated emotions. In many situations this condition goes untreated. Hiding sadness, pain, and other emotions is something men are often taught. Expressing the feelings associated with PPND feels like weakness. Because of that, men often deal with this pain alone, a great incubator for amplifying depression. 

Many men think they are the only people to ever have these feelings, an idea that will often lead to shame. They say, “The birth of my child is supposed to be a joyous event.” Feelings of guilt can quickly arise when it’s followed with, “Why am I so damn miserable?” Guilt, shame, and loneliness on top of sadness…ugh, that can be a deep hole to climb out of.

What causes it?

Although we only have a basic understanding into the reasons behind PPMD, we do have been able to identify a couple of key factors. With PPD, most research points to the fluctuations in a woman’s hormone levels as a significant factor. The same can be said about the development of PPND in new dads.

In several animal species, the new dad’s testosterone levels will decrease after a birth. In animals, lower testosterone levels are connected to a reduction in libido and aggressive and competitive behaviors. This is likely nature’s way of trying to keep the dad around to protect the new baby, increasing its chances of survival.

Early research confirms that this same change happens in some men. Studies have shown that testosterone levels in involved male partners are more likely to dip more than in men who remain single after their child’s birth. We already know that low testosterone levels have a strong correlation with depression. 

Some men struggling with PPND have talked about the difficulty of coping with the loss of control that often comes with a newborn. Any parent can tell you that life gets turned upside down when a new baby joins the family. Routine, consistency, and predictability get thrown directly out the window. For the guy who likes to have it all figured out and buttoned down, this can be a difficult transition to cope with. 

You can overcome Paternal Postnatal Depression.

PPND, like other forms of depression, is a treatable condition that should not be ignored. Here are some strategies to help.

Find Support and Talk

Talk about your feelings, do your best to open up and express what is going on inside. Don’t be afraid to turn for help. During times of struggle, your spouse, friends, and family are there to offer a shoulder to lean on.  

Find a Balance

Taking care of yourself is an important part of coping with any type of stress. Remember to eat healthy, exercise, get enough sleep, and don’t forget about the hobbies and activities that you enjoyed before your child was born, although you may have less time to put towards these.   

Consider Counseling

Consider getting help from a professional if Paternal Postnatal Depression is significantly impacting your marriage, your job, or your ability to parent. A trained mental health provider can assist you in coping with and overcoming the symptoms of PPND. 

Remember that you are not alone! Most researchers believe that 10% of new dads deal with PPND, some estimates are much higher.  You do not need to tackle your sadness in silence.   

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